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Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on May 14, 2015.

May 19, 2015

11:00 a.m. cases

I. New Applications, Transfers and amendments:

Applicant Glenn Rey, Sr.
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Downtown Tavern
Address 837-39 W. Cross Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the applicant, Mr. Rey, who was present with the secured creditor for the license. Kodenski proffered that the applicant had met with Citizens of Pigtown, who had submitted a letter in favor of the transfer. Rey had been on the license before and was returning to run the business. Kodenski mused that there used to be a song called “Don’t Put the Whammy on Mr. Ray.” [The song he was thinking of was probably “She Put the Whammy on Mr. Ray.”]

Zoning R-9
Neighborhood Washington Village/Pigtown
Area demographics BNIA did not have demographic information for this neighborhood.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? None provided in docket
Location of entity’s principal office None provided in docket
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicant Linda Brown Rivelis
Business Name The Pincus Restaurant Group, LLC
Trading As The Elephant
Address 924 N. Charles Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor Restaurant license under the provisions of Rule 2.08 requiring $200,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures and facilities and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people
Hearing notes

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the hearing would be postponed to a further date.

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Mount Vernon
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing Postponed
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed N/A
Applicants Lori Gjerde & Kathleen Burke
Business Name Dagwood, LLC
Trading As Huck’s
Address 3728 Hudson Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, request for outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Mr. Stephan Fogleman, former Chairman of the BLLC, represented the applicants. On behalf of his clients, he submitted business plans and a sample menu to the commissioners for the bar formerly known as Elliott’s Pourhouse. Fogleman said that Brewers Hill hasn’t had the dining options that its neighbors in Canton have had, but the neighborhood is growing and the restaurant will be a welcome addition. The new restaurant, Huck’s American Craft, will serve local and regional dishes, spirits and craft beers. Lori Gjerde has been affiliated with Alexander’s Tavern and Papi’s, both in Fells Point. The Brewers Hill Association submitted a letter in support of the transfer. The applicants have signed an MOU with their next door neighbor regarding the outside tables.

The transferor, Mr. Mason, was not present at the hearing, because he has moved to Delaware. Chairman Ward interrupted the hearing to say that Mr. Mason is required to be present and to fine him $250 for failure to appear. Ward mused that it was probably worth it to Mr. Mason not to come down to Baltimore for $250.

Commissioner Moore asked whether the bar has been open continuously; Fogleman replied that on December 13, 2014, the bar closed for 45 days but has reopened two or three times over the last few months to keep their license alive under Article 2B section 10-504(d).

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Brewers Hill
Area demographics 66% White, 9% Black, 3% Asian; 20% Hispanic ethnicity; 17% households have children under age 18; median household income: $60,484; 15% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Former Liquor Board Chairman Mr. Stephan Fogleman
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicant Mingo Grant
Business Name Two Spot, Inc.
Trading As Grant’s 2 Spot
Address 2 N. Wheeler Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the applicant, present at the hearing. The transferor has moved to California, so he was not present. The applicant is the transferor’s son. Kodenski proffered that the Grant family had owned the business for forty or fifty years and also owns eight to ten houses in the area. Mingo has been operating the establishment since 2010, with no violations on his record.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Penrose/Fayette Street Outreach
Area demographics 17% White, 76% Black, 1% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 37% households have children under age 18; median household income: $27,751.89
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Suraya Thebe & Shova Serchan
Business Name Muna, LLC
Trading As trade name pending
Address 4502-04 Erdman Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Transfer of ownership and request to add live entertainment
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the two applicants, who appeared with the transferor. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that the applicants’ request to add live entertainment had been withdrawn, due to community opposition. Kodenski proffered that the two applicants currently work at Kumari Restaurant, but, upon the transfer of the license, they will begin working at this lcoation. The application is for a transfer of ownership only, not location, and there will be no major change in operation. Kodenski said that there “really is not community group on Erdman Avenue” but that there is no opposition as far as he knows. (A Cityview search shows that HARBEL Community Organization, Inc. covers this address.)

Zoning B-2-1
Neighborhood Orchard Ridge
Area demographics 32% White, 53% Black/African-American, 1% Asian; 11% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; median household income: $31,970; 16% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Young Min Chang & Shirley Payne
Business Name 99 Uptown, Inc.
Trading As Uptown Bar
Address 1901 Edmondson Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Jay Yoo represented the two applicants, who were present with the transferor of the license. Mr. Chang will be running the business, and Ms. Payne is the “resident agent” according to Mr. Yoo. Yoo said that he had contacted the Midtown Community Association for their position on the transfer; the community association said that they were happy with the previous licensee and were fine with the transfer. Yoo also contacted the president of the Alliance of Rosemont Community Organizations (ARCO), and his clients will be meeting with a representative from that group soon. Commissioner Moore expressed concern that there was nothing in writing regarding the positions of the community organizations. Mr. Yoo explained that he had talked to both groups on the phone. Commissioner Moore also made clear that Ms. Payne should understand that she is personally responsible for what happens with the license. Mr. Yoo said that Ms. Payne understands her responsibility.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Midtown-Edmondson
Area demographics 97% Black, 35% households have children under age 18; median household income: $23,565; 37% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Jay Yoo
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

1:00 pm cases

III. Violations:

Licensee Solomon Belay
Business Name Five Seasons, LLC
Trading As Five Seasons
Address 828-30 Guilford Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – February 24, 2015 – At approximately 12:02 am the Baltimore Police Department responded to the establishment known as “Five Seasons,” which is located at 828-830 Guilford Avenue, for a report of an aggravated assault. When the officer arrived at the scene he found a victim lying by the bar that appeared bloodied and injured. The police officer was able to obtain the victim’s identification. The victim stated that he had gotten into a physical altercation with another patron at the bar and was stabbed during the altercation. When medical personnel arrived at the scene they removed the victim’s shirt and the officer observed two puncture wounds to the victim’s back and a laceration in the back of the victim’s head. Medical personnel transported the victim to Johns Hopkins Hospital where he was pronounced dead at approximately 1:17am.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – February 24, 2015 – At approximately 12:02 am the Baltimore Police Department responded to the establishment known as “Five Seasons,” which is located at 828-830 Guilford Avenue, for a report of an aggravated assault. When the officer arrived at the scene he found a victim lying by the bar that appeared bloodied and injured. The police officer was able to obtain the victim’s identification. The victim stated that he had gotten into a physical altercation with another patron at the bar and was stabbed during the altercation. When medical personnel arrived at the scene they removed the victim’s shirt and the officer observed two puncture wounds to the victim’s back and a laceration in the back of the victim’s head. Medical personnel transported the victim to Johns Hopkins Hospital where he was pronounced dead at approximately 1:17am.

Violation of Rule 3.02: Cooperation – February 24, 2015 – At approximately 12:02 am the Baltimore Police Department responded to the establishment known as “Five Seasons,” which is located at 828-830 Guilford Avenue, for a report of an aggravated assault. When the officer arrived at the scene he found a victim lying by the bar that appeared bloodied and injured. After surveying the scene, the police officer determined this was a serious incident and that the District Detective Unit should be contacted to investigate this matter. As per protocol, the officer began to secure the scene so as to maintain evidence. At this time the licensee and the licensee’s son started cleaning the crime scene and tainting evidence. At this time the officer told the licensee and his son to cease and desist, but they continued. The officer had to tell the licensee and his son several times to stop cleaning the crime scene before they stopped.

Hearing notes

Officer Jordan Deremer, a five-year patrol officer with the Baltimore City Police Department, testified that, on the night in question, 911 received a call for an aggravated assault. When he entered the premises, he saw a man on the ground, bleeding from the head and back. Deremer verified that a medic was en route and tried to talk to the man about what had happened. The man said that he had been stabbed. It was a chaotic scene, with broken glass on the floor and people wandering around. Eyewitnesses said that the man had been hit over the head, which was consistent with the injuries to the back of his head. When the medics arrived, the man’s speech became garbled and he lost consciousness; the man died later that night. Deremer said that he had to tell the bar owner and his son, twice for each of them, to stop cleaning up the crime scene before the officers could come and do their full investigation. When Deremer talked to the security guards, they told him that there had been a fight earlier, which they broke up, but they let the people fighting go back to what they were doing and did not tell them to leave. They did not seem to have made any effort to stop the person who stabbed the victim.

Mr. Belay, without legal representation, testified that he was at the premises on the night in question. He didn’t see the whole event, because he was in the kitchen. At some point, there were seven men fighting each other in the men’s bathroom, including the victim. Security personnel broke up the fight, but the fight started again between three or four of the seven people. Belay said that he was cleaning up because it was his routine; he neer intended to destroy evidence. Belay told the Commissioners, “I am a victim myself.” He said that he has lost business since the incident, since people are scared to come. The licensee said that he has two security officers, which he hires through an independent company. He did not know whether they were licensed and bonded. The security cameras at the building are not hooked up and had not been working for about eight months before the incident.

Belay tried to cross-examine Officer Deremer about Deremer’s knowledge of crime scene processing, but the Chairman said that the line of questioning was irrelevant. Officer Deremer testified that there were ten to twelve officers at the scene and that they maintained a crime scene log. They put up caution tape outside of the bar to keep people from coming inside, but it’s not common practice to cordon off interior areas.

Under questioning from the commissioners, Belay said that he had not really had any issues with fights. Belay said that the security, in this instance, did an “excellent job.” Commissioner Jones was surprised to hear Belay say that the guards did an excellent job, since a homicide occurred inside the bar. Belay said that he doesn’t have problems with fights at his establishment, normally. Officer Deremer replied that he has responded to the club for a safety issue many times, more than 10 in the last year and a half that he can think of. The establishment has a serious problem with fights, both inside and in the parking lot, espcially at closing time, according to the officer. The police assign ten to fifteen officers to close down the club safely. Belay disagreed and said that they may have fights in a neighboring establishment next door.

Zoning B-5-1
Neighborhood Mount Vernon
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Responsible for all charges. 4 week suspension, $6,000 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that the police officer’s testimony seemed accurate and believable and that the charges were very serious. After the fight was broken up, security guards allowed the people to remain in the building. Ward reminded Belay that serving alcohol is a privilege and that he is responsible for the conduct of his employees. His security and management personnel failed miserably. Commissioner Jones concurred and found it disturbing that the police officer could remember being there for various incidents at least ten times. Commissioner Moore joined with the others. She was troubled by Belay’s complete failure to understand the seriousness of the charges and the potential for great harm to the community. She particularly noted his security camera being inoperable for over eight months. She told the licensee that he is not the victim; the victim is the dead man. Mr. Belay tried to argue with the commissioners that their punishment was unfair.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensee Domingo Kim
Business Name Domingo Kim Enterprises, Inc.
Trading As Stadium Lounge
Address 3351-55 Greenmount Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.15: Gambling – March 12, 2015 – At approximately 8:45pm, Baltimore City Police executed a Search and Seizure Warrant at the establishment “Stadium Lounge” located at 3351-53 Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore City. In executing the search warrant Baltimore City Police Officers seized (5) Video Slot Machine Motherboards; and (5) Video Slot Machine CPUs; and (5) Video Slot Machine Power Switches; and (4) Payout Slips; and (1) Gray Bank of America Money Bag; and U.S. Currency totaling in the amount of $7867.00. The Search and Seizure warrant was based on probable cause established by Detective Akinwande when he made direct undercover observations on February 26, 2015 from approximately 6pm to 11pm of at least two patrons receiving payouts for gambling on video machines located at the Stadium Lounge. Upon executing the search warrant the Baltimore Police were able to identify the licensee, Domingo Kim, on the premises and attempting to hide potential proceeds of gambling revenues in his personal vehicle.

Violation of Rule 3.02: Cooperation – March 12, 2015 – At approximately 8:45pm, Baltimore City Police executed a Search and Seizure Warrant at the establishment “Stadium Lounge” located at 3351-53 Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore City. In executing the search warrant Baltimore City Police Officers seized (5) Video Slot Machine Motherboards; and (5) Video Slot Machine CPUs; and (5) Video Slot Machine Power Switches; and (4) Payout Slips; and (1) Gray Bank of America Money Bag; and U.S. Currency totaling in the amount of $7867.00. The Search and Seizure warrant was based on probable cause established by Detective Akinwande when he made direct undercover observations on February 26, 2015 from approximately 6pm to 11pm of at least two patrons receiving payouts for gambling on video machines located at the Stadium Lounge. Upon executing the search warrant the Baltimore Police were able to identify the licensee, Domingo Kim, on the premises and attempting to hide potential proceeds of gambling revenues in his personal vehicle.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – March 12, 2015 – At approximately 8:45pm, Baltimore City Police executed a Search and Seizure Warrant at the establishment “Stadium Lounge” located at 3351-53 Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore City. In executing the search warrant Baltimore City Police Officers seized (5) Video Slot Machine Motherboards; and (5) Video Slot Machine CPUs; and (5) Video Slot Machine Power Switches; and (4) Payout Slips; and (1) Gray Bank of America Money Bag; and U.S. Currency totaling in the amount of $7867.00. The Search and Seizure warrant was based on probable cause established by Detective Akinwande when he made direct undercover observations on February 26, 2015 from approximately 6pm to 11pm of at least two patrons receiving payouts for gambling on video machines located at the Stadium Lounge. Upon executing the search warrant the Baltimore Police were able to identify the licensee, Domingo Kim, on the premises and attempting to hide potential proceeds of gambling revenues in his personal vehicle.

Hearing notes

The attorney for the licensee, Mr. Frank Boozer, admitted to the charge on behalf of his client. Boozer told the Board that there is a pending criminal charge related to this incident against Mr. Kim and asked the Board to postpone the hearing until after the criminal charge is heard and adjudicated. Chairman Ward denied Mr. Boozer’s request. He said that licensees’ attorneys use postponements to get rid of charges, and he did not believe that the Board should allow the process to stop just because there are other charges in other forums. The Board exists to regulate liquor licenses and the Circuit Court of Baltimore City is for the regulation of criminal cases.

Mr. Thomas Akras, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Liquor Board, then read the facts of the incident into the record on the three admitted charges. The Board found Mr. Kim responsible and then moved on to the punishment phase of the hearing.

Detective Abraham Gatto testified that it took a week of undercover investigation from the Vice Unit to create their case, and that he has seen a constant flood of papers on his desk complaining about this bar. Detective LC Greenhill agreed with Gatto. He has been in the Vice Unit since 2003 and has received many complaints about underage drinking, excessive noise, and illegal gambling. Mr. Timothy Criss, resident of Guilford and attorney for the Guilford Association, stated that it was clear from Mr. Kim’s admitted behavior (trying to hide money in his car) that these were not negligent acts or omissions; rather, they were intentional actions. Criss said that the community cannot trust Mr. Kim and asked for the revocation of the license. Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke testified that she receives complaints constantly, including loitering, noise, illegal gambling and other issues. The bar distracts the officers from other issues; patrons bother passersby from nearby schools and the library. Neighbors were too intimidated to submit a protest of renewal this spring. Neighbor Mary Bond testified that she lives across the street and complained specifically about public urination, loitering and other nuisance behavior by Stadium Lounge patrons. Sonia Merchant-Jones, from the Better Waverly Community Organization said that the bar is unkept and full of trash. She said that she has lived in the neighborhood for over fifty years and she wants the children who grow up there to have the same wonderful memories that she had. Mark Counselman, former President of the Oakenshawe Improvement Association, testified that he is a member of the Brentwood Avenue Orchard, directly across Greenmount from Stadium Lounge; there are thousands of bottles and other trash that ends up on the street as well as drunk people and public urination. Similar testimony was given by Regina Boyce, board chair of Waverly Main Street, Emily Drasher, Executive Director of Waverly Main Street, Matt Metzger, a nearby neighbor, Ira Kowler of Greater Homewood Community Corporation, and a community relations police officer from the district.

Mr. Boozer, in mitigation, told the Board that the $7,800 was the total of all money taken from the establishment, not the money that was involved in illegal gambling. Mr. Kim has owned the business for eight years and is part of the community. Boozer said that Stadium Lounge is a Baltimore tradition and promised that his client would work with the community on a written Memorandum of Understanding, saying, of the community members present, “they’re actually very very nice people.”

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Waverly
Area demographics 79% Black, 15% White; 29% households have children under age 18; median household income: $38,733; 18% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Frank Boozer
# in support 1
Attorney for community Mr. Timothy Criss (for the Guilford Association)
# of protestants ~20
# of inspectors/police officers 3
Result of hearing Responsible for all charges. 6 month suspension, $9,000 fine.
Vote tally 2-1 (Ward dissenting)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward stated that the Liquor Board rules suggest that a protest of renewal is the correct way to end a license. The community here chose not to protest the renewal this year. While the Board still has the power to revoke the license, Ward did not believe that the Board could do so for these facts. Ward suggested a 4 month suspension and a fine of $3,000 for each violation. Commissioner Moore upped the suggested suspension to six months, given the efforts to hide the money in the licensee’s car. Commissioner Jones agreed with Moore about the length of the suspension.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Chairman Ward seems to think that there is a lower standard the evidence required for a successful community protest of renewal than there is for a revocation of a license. But Article 2B does not make any distinction between the two, and the outcome is the same.

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